A beautiful parrot, the moustached parakeet is named for its distinctive feathers above the beak that looks like a well-groomed mustache. This bird makes a great pet and has a sweet, outgoing personality that bird lovers enjoy. If you're looking for a small parrot that might talk and perch on your shoulder, the moustached parakeet is a species to consider.
Common Names: Moustached parakeet, mustache parakeet, Java parakeet, red-breasted parakeet
Scientific Name: Psittacula alexandri
Adult Size: 13 to 15 inches
Life Expectancy: 25 years with proper care
Origin and History
The moustached parakeet has extensive range in southeast Asia. It is native to China and the islands of Indonesia, where several subspecies live. Feral populations are spreading to many other areas, including neighboring cities. Their shrinking natural habitat causes flocks to become urban dwellers.
In the wild, this species tends to live in woodlands, hills, and mountains and gather in flocks of up to 60 birds. The group can become quite loud, so it's hard to miss them. This bird has an unmistakably deafening warning calling when danger approaches. During the mating season, a pair will leave the flock and find a tree cavity to call home until their chicks mature.
Moustached parakeets can make adorable pets when hand-fed as babies and properly socialized. They are active, social creatures who love to spend time playing games and spend time with their owners.
Some owners of moustached parakeets report that their birds tend to act bossy or needy. They will demand an owner's attention if they feel ignored. However, they do tend to be more relaxed than the boisterous Indian ringneck parakeet.
Moustached parakeets do not tend to enjoy a lot of cuddling, though will welcome some petting near the neck. If handled often and gently, it may warm to more cuddling.
While moustached parakeets are highly intelligent and very trainable, some owners report aggression issues. This behavior usually results from inadequate socialization. Moustached parakeets tend to choose a favorite person and bond strongly with them while acting out toward other people and pets.
Like other Asiatic species, they also go through a period of aggressive bluffing behavior—biting and territorial—during their adolescence. Because of this and their need for extra attention, they may not be the best "beginner" bird species, though some birders differ in opinion.
Known to be excellent talkers (especially the males), these birds will reward their owners with many years of comical companionship if adequately cared for.
Speech and Vocalizations
While all parrots will make a certain amount of noise, moustached parakeets are one of the quieter species in terms of screaming and squawking. Many owners report that the birds would much rather talk or whistle pleasantly than bellow ear-piercing screams. For this reason, a moustached parakeet may be the right choice for those who want a parrot but would prefer a quieter bird.
Moustached Parakeet Colors and Markings
Moustached parakeets display a rainbow of colors in their beautiful plumage. Their backs and wings vary with brilliant green and yellow hues, and they have beautiful greenish-blue tail feathers. They have powder-blue heads with characteristic "moustache" black stripes above and below their beaks. Their rose-colored breast fades into a bluish-turquoise shade on the legs and bellies.
A dimorphic species, it's relatively easy to tell males and females apart. While the males have a brighter pink breast, the easiest way to distinguish the sexes is by looking at the beak. The males will have a bright orange upper mandible with a yellow tip. Females have a beak that is shades of dark gray or even black. Both have gray skin on their feet.
Some color mutations appear from time to time; birds might have more blue or turquoise in their plumage.
Caring for a Moustached Parakeet
As pet birds, moustached parakeets are not as common as some other species, though they are becoming more popular. They are often only available through specialty breeders.
At the minimum, this bird requires a small macaw cage—3 feet by 2 feet by 3 feet. Two individuals should not share a cage, and different genders together can also be a problem. Females tend to dominate males.
These birds are inquisitive and will always want to know what you're doing. They are explorers. If left unattended outside of their cage, they may end up in a part of your home you don't want them in. It's best to have a perch nearby and bring the bird back to it whenever it strays. This bird enjoys perching on shoulders and wants to be part of the action.
If you are interested in a pet for the whole family, a moustached parakeet may not be the best choice—it's more a one-person pet. However, if you are a single person or otherwise intend to be the bird's sole caretaker, then this bird could very well be the most loyal companion you will ever have.
Common Health Problems
This bird is a hardy species, but it can be susceptible to a few conditions:
- Polyoma, a deadly avian virus
- Sarcocystosis, a parasitic disease
- Aspergillosis, a fungal disease
- Bacterial infections
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Psittacosis (parrot fever), a disease caused by the chlamydia bacteria
Diet and Nutrition
In the wild, this bird eats fruits, seeds, and blossoms. As with all parrots, it is essential to feed pet moustached parakeets a varied diet that includes a high-quality commercial pellet formula and seed mixture, as well as a range of fresh foods.
Feed approximately 1/4 cup of pelleted food and 1//4 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. A raw and varied diet will help ensure that your bird maintains top nutrition. Moustached parakeets are known to be good eaters. They tend to be less finicky than other birds about the types of fruits and vegetables they are willing to try. Seeds should be fed in moderation to avoid obesity, but are an important source of protein for your bird.
Fruits and vegetables that you can feed include melon, apple, kale, strawberries, carrots, collard greens, and banana. Don't feed avocado, as it can be toxic to these birds.
Moustached parakeets are very active birds, both in the wild and in captivity. Give this bird plenty of room to climb, swing, and play both in and out of their cages.
Moustached parakeets should receive a minimum of four hours of supervised playtime outside of their cages per day in a safe, "bird-proofed" area. Because of these requirements, they may not make the best pets for someone who has very little time to interact with their pets.
Toys are essential to keeping this parakeet happy and out of trouble. Be sure to give your bird a large cage with plenty of ladders, swings, and chew toys. Any toys made out of wood, leather, or beads will be much appreciated and provide needed stimulation.
Intelligent, a great mimic and talker
Beautiful, eye-catching species
Quieter parrot; may be able house with neighbors nearby
Not much of a family pet; more a single person pet
May have biting, aggressive period during its adolescence; not recommended for families with young children
Where to Adopt or Buy a Moustached Parakeet
Contact local breeders and visit with their birds to get a feel for their personalities. This visit can give you a better idea of what it's like to live with a moustached parakeet. They can cost from $250 to $1,000 from a breeder; check animal shelters and rescue organizations, too. Online resources can point you in the right direction of breeders or rescues:
If buying through a breeder, make sure you interview them, look at the general health of their birds, check out their living conditions and talk to past customers. Signs you should avoid the breeder include cramped living conditions, inactive birds, and breeders who avoid your questions or do not seem to have much information on their birds.
More Pet Bird Species and Further Research
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Otherwise, check out all of our other medium-sized parrot profiles.